Louis Orr (American, 1879-1961), Three Preparatory Proofs With Hand-Drawn Additions for Orange County Court House, Hillsborough, North Carolina (Leland Little gallery is located 1 mile from this building)
Reading Between the Lines
Etchings could easily be viewed as static. Louis Orr’s etchings are anything but. Behind each etching is a story — full of travel, people, and much activity.
A lifelong Francophile, Orr enlisted in the French Army in 1917. Through this commission, Orr had special permission to travel to the front lines of the war. Traveling to the city of Reims, and under significant German artillery fire, Orr had the strength of mind and skill of hand to capture what remained of the gothic magnificence of Notre Dame de Reims. In a situation where many of us would not be able to maintain a steady hand, Orr created a masterpiece. Orr’s depiction of Notre Dame de Reims brought him widespread international recognition.
Louis Orr (American, 1879-1961), The Hayes, Edenton (Proof, Some Drawn Additions)
By the 1920s, Orr was in high demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Spending much of his time in Paris, he met fellow American, attorney and businessman Robert Lee Humber in 1927, while he too was living in Paris. The two developed a close friendship.
During the 1930s Humber proposed that Orr capture on paper the finest examples of North Carolina's architecture and historical sites. Humber hoped to preserve North Carolina’s history through the hands of a master. Orr accepted the commission. The ensuing challenge was deciding what to depict. To answer this question, Humber and Orr traveled extensively throughout North Carolina and consulted with numerous historians and authorities of the state. Their initial list included over 100 sites. Narrowing the list down to 50, Orr began his work in 1939. The nature of this work required Orr to travel the state, numerous times, to sketch his subjects. Orr would then return to Hartford, Connecticut (his hometown and where he was then living) to complete his work and execute the copper plates. This monumental set of etchings was completed in 1952. The etchings were released in portfolios of five per year and were collected by institutions and individuals alike.
Louis Orr (American, 1879-1961), The Halifax House (Proof with Drawn Additions)
Detail showing hand-embellishments with pencil and wash by Orr on The Halifax House proof.
Louis Orr achieved great success and recognition. His works are now housed in prestigious institutions such as the Louvre (actually, the first etchings that the Louvre ever accessioned), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institute, as well as private collections. The etchings offered in our Thanksgiving Estate Auction are from a special collection of trial artist proofs made in preparation for Orr's famous 50 (or really, 51) etchings of North Carolinian architectural and historical landmarks. Many have extensive drawing and notations by Orr.